County staff authorized again to analyze road network in eastern part of county to assess deficiencies

Amendment to 2050 Plan regarding Villages could be needed, staff says

This is a modification to the county’s’ 2040 Future Thoroughfare Map that the County Commission approved in February 2020, with Lorraine Road as a four-lane, north-south arterial. Image courtesy Sarasota County

In an effort to address the growing number of complaints about what residents have described as the deficient road network in the eastern part of Sarasota County — where numerous new communities have won County Commission approval — the board members have re-authorized staff to analyze the county’s 2050 Plan, which guides growth east of Interstate 75.

The unanimous vote came in the form of the board’s approval of its April 26 Consent Agenda of routine business items. Formally, the commissioners agreed for staff to process a publicly initiated Comprehensive Plan amendment that will amend or remove a section of the 2050 Plan and for staff to undertake studies on level-of-service deficiencies on the affected east county roads.

“Level of service” refers to how smoothly a driver perceives traffic to flow on a given route.

The commissioners took the very same step on Aug. 24, 2021 — and that item also was on the Consent Agenda.

However, the April 26 item that the commissioners approved included one new facet: an amendment to the county’s Future Thoroughfare Maps in the Comprehensive Plan to include the realignment of what had been dubbed North-South Roadway B. The segment has been christened Bourneside Road.

This is the existing right of way alignment for North-South Roadway B. Image courtesy Sarasota County
This map shows the proposed realignment of North-South Roadway B, which has been christened Bourneside Road. Image courtesy Sarasota County

No board member offered a comment on the Consent Agenda item before either the August 2021 vote or the April 26 vote, which is typical. Unless a commissioner has a concern about — or wants to put the spotlight on — a particular item, the chair just asks for a motion on the Consent Agenda, followed by the vote.

When The Sarasota News Leader this week asked county staff why the same item was brought back to the board on April 26, Michele Norton, assistant director of the Planning and Development Services Department, explained in a May 3 email, “The addition of another segment of roadway was actually for efficiency purposes. We had a consultant that was performing the data and analysis for the original thoroughfare exercise that was just wrapping up. It made sense to add this additional segment on the analysis as it is interconnected.”

A county staff memo provided in the April 26 agenda packet pointed out that the county’s 2050 Plan “works with the Future Land Use Map and establishes an optional policy framework to enhance the livability of Sarasota County by preserving its natural, cultural, physical, and other resources with incentives for managing growth within the Urban Service Area Boundary (USB), while providing guidance for future development in the form of villages and hamlets in eastern portions of the County, east of the established USB.”

A blue line on this map marks the county’s Urban Service Boundary, as shown in the 2016 Comprehensive Plan. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The areas within the USB have existing infrastructure, such as water and sewer pipelines and roads.

Given the residential developments already underway east of I-75, the memo continued, “[I]t has become apparent that there are constraining factors that will impact the level of service” of the road network east of the USB and the Countryside Line that will serve those new communities.

Those roads, the memo added, are Fruitville Road, Bee Ridge Road, North-South Roadway B, East-West Roadway B and Clark Road.

A factor exacerbating the impacts to the thoroughfare network in that area, the memo said, “is the tremendous amount of growth in Manatee County to the north …” [That] has resulted in a high level of traffic using alternative routes, coming southward into Sarasota County” and affecting roads such as Fruitville.

This March 2019 fact sheet that county staff provided about affordable housing initiatives includes 2050 Plan developments approved for the eastern part of the county. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Because residents in that portion of the county should be able to move around “in a safe and efficient manner,” the memo added, staff needs to re-examine how the 2050 policy framework addresses the functionality of the road network that will serve the new villages and hamlets.

One 2050 policy, 5.3 — which involves the Village development form — “specifically limits the number of lanes for arterial, collector, and local roadway segments located east of Lorraine Road to two travel lanes in an attempt to preserve the natural, cultural and physical characteristics of land east of the USB,” the memo explained.

These are the Florida Department of Transportation’s definitions of arterial and collector roads, as shown in a 2018 document. Image courtesy FDOT

“To ensure an adequate and safe level of service on existing and future East County roadways,” the memo continued, that policy “should either be amended or removed from the Comprehensive Plan.” If that takes place, the memo said, amendments also will be necessary for the Future Thoroughfare Map series “and associated Tables in the Future Land Use and Transportation chapters of the Comprehensive Plan … to reflect the changes.”

The roadway links to be evaluated for level-of-service deficiencies will include, but not be limited to, the following, the memo noted:

  • Bee Ridge Road (Lorraine Road to North-South Roadway B).
  • Fruitville Road (Lorraine Road to Verna Road).
  • Clark Road (Lorraine Road to Downs Road/Myakka State Forest).

“Other Future Thoroughfare Plan-related amendments or corrections that should be considered with this amendment include correcting the Future Thoroughfare Maps to indicate the correct number of future traffic lanes for Manasota Beach Road through the City of North Port, adding Singletary Road (Verna Road to the County line) as a major collector roadway, and the realignment of North-South Roadway B,” which is Bourneside Road, the memo said.

This graphic shows the Countryside Line, as depicted in a graphic regarding the Hi Hat Ranch developers’ plans for relocating it. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Two County Commission public hearings would be necessary before the 2050 Plan policy and its associated maps and tables could be amended, the memo pointed out.

A county Planning Commission hearing also would have to be scheduled, the memo noted.

Staff does plan a public workshop on the initiative authorized by the commissioners, the memo said; it will be advertised.

However, the memo continued, the first step will be for staff “to conduct any necessary transportation studies.” Then the public workshop would be held, the memo added.